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Black women and AIDS. Fix this!

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HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for African-American women between the ages of 25 and 44.

Take a moment and let that sink in.

During the ages when the more fortunate among us are starting, then advancing in our careers, and frequently balancing work and families, an entire generation of American women are getting sick and dying from a preventable disease.

In her article, "This era of black women and HIV/AIDS," published Dec. 4 on The Black Commentator, feminist scholar and activist Rev. Irene Monroe points out many disturbing facts surrounding black women and HIV/AIDS. She also makes it crystal clear that this is an issue of not only race but gender disparity.

It should get everyone’s hackles up. Why is the prevalence of AIDS among African-American women so well hidden in our society?

Monroe pinpoints the reasons: Failed national leadership, lack of support in the church community, homophobia, and the legacy of slavery.

It's a sobering read that should open many eyes.

Suzanne Brooks, co-founder of the Sacramento, Calif.-based group Justice 4 All Includes Women of Color called these times “a holocaust against black women.”

Brooks pointed out that not only is this demographic facing the highest rate of increases in HIV/AIDS, African-American women also have the highest suicide rates; the highest death rates from curable diseases; the greatest likelihood of death from heart disease; and the fastest growing rates of incarceration.

Justice 4 All sponsored a conference in September aimed at establishing a National Women of Color Agenda and reports receiving personal commitments from President-Elect Barack Obama that these pressing issues will be addressed.

Brooks and the group’s co-founder, Akilah Uwimana Hatchett, have also appealed to other organizations, such as the non-profit group WomenCount – now campaigning for a Presidential Commission on Women -- to include the health crisis in their priorities.

“Politicians do respond to the will of the people when that will is expressed in sustained, organized actions,” said Brooks.

Let it be so for the sake of an entire generation of black women.

More resources:

Fact Sheet: Women and HIV/AIDS in the United States - Kaiser Family Foundation

Women of Color United

Women Won't Wait

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.ï She publishes, a health and science news site.
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